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SummaryTotally Games totally drops the ball on what should have been a classic.
The Good'Star Trek: Bridge Commander' does a very nice job of recreating the feel of the Star Trek universe. The overall look of the game is very true to the series. You play the part of a nameless (and faceless and voiceless) captain, out to uncover a secret plot to destroy the Federation. Not exactly original, but not the worst story they could have came up with either.
Gameplay takes place either through the first person perspective of the captain on the bridge, or in a much more interesting and useful tactical mode. The tactical mode is a view of your ship from behind, in which you use the W, S, A, and D keys to control movement, and the number keys for throttle. The mouse buttons are used for firing weapons, and the function keys bring up all the various bridge functions. While your tactical officer is competent enough, the only way to really do well in the game is to use the tactical mode almost exclusively. Besides, the bridge models are relatively ugly and blocky, and the lip sync for the characters in the game is abysmal. It's much prettier out in space.
That said, space combat can be fun. The ships handle as you would expect from a big lumbering starship. The ships turn slowly, and don't race around the screen like, say, an X-Wing or a Tie Fighter would, and this is a good thing for this sort of game. When targeting an enemy ship, you have the option to target various subsystems, whether to take out their impulse engines, warp drive, weapons, or what have you. Unfortunately, this works out better in theory than in practice, as most of the time an enemy ship ends up being destroyed before you are able to take out certain subsystems.
Sadly, the first word that comes to mind when writing about this game is 'boring'. It's painfully boring in fact. For a game in which you are supposed to be in command of a starship, you end up feeling more like an ensign than a captain. As I said earlier, your character has no voice. Presumably this is to make you feel more like the captain yourself, but if you are like me, you don't feel especially comfortable sitting at home alone barking orders at your monitor.
The game offers absolutely no sense of exploration or adventure, which are qualities you would expect from a game based on a TV show about exploration and adventure. But no, not here. In fact, in this game you will be literally led from mission to mission by the hand, told what to do, where to go, how to avoid being detected, etc. There is nothing left for the player to figure out. There is no puzzle solving whatsoever. The game boils down to warping your ship from system to system (again, you can ONLY go where you are told to) and shooting up any bad guys that may be there.
Another irritating feature of the game is your obnoxious first officer. It feels like she is the captain of the ship, not you. She does all the talking to people on the view screen, she issues orders to the crew, she even reprimands YOU when something goes wrong. That leads me to another point. If you make one mistake, the game is over. Starfleet is notified of your ineptitude and you're canned. Does anyone remember Captain Kirk or Captain Picard ever being relieved of duty for one small mistake or failure? It's ridiculous, and makes you feel like the game should be called 'Star Trek: Bridge Peon'.
Unfortunately the problems don't stop there, not by a long shot. The game has two (more) very serious problems, which in my mind ruin the entire experience. The first is the lack of an in-mission save. Some of the missions are very long, and not being able to save during them means that you will have to play some over and over and over again all the way through. That also means replaying all of the mundane tasks such as recharging the battery, scanning the area, orbiting a planet, listening to messages from this or that person, and so on. It's all pretty dull the first time, and nearly unbearable by the fifth or sixth.
This leads me into the other major mistake made by Totally Games. You cannot, under any circumstances, skip a cutscene. So, if you are forced to play the same mission 7 or 8 times (because of a lack of in-mission saves) you will also be forced to watch the same badly acted, poorly lip synced cutscenes 7 or 8 times. To make matters worse, some of them are several minutes long. This is really unforgivable in my opinion, and quickly kills any desire to keep playing what is already a terribly flawed game.
Graphically the game looks pretty nice, but not as nice as many would have you believe. I hear a lot of talk about how this looks just as good as the TV show, and that is just nonsense. The interiors are dull and ugly, and the exteriors tend to be dark and muddy. Though to be fair, the ship models are very well done and have a great amount of detail. It'd just be a lot nicer if I could see them clearly when in tactical mode, instead of having enemies appear as dark shapes against a star field. The absence of an in-game brightness adjustment option is another amateurish oversight.
The Bottom Line
Despite a good record, Totally Games really didn't get it right this time out. From the people that brought us such classics as the X-Wing and Tie Fighter series, I would have expected a lot more. Sadly, all the irritating flaws add up to a game-killing problem. It's just not fun, and for the $50 you will spend on it, there are a lot of much better games out there you could buy. Maybe a hardcore Star Trek fan would be able to overlook, or even completely ignore all of the games glaring faults. For anyone who doesn't speak Klingon or own a Starfleet uniform however, I'd stay away from this disaster.